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Published August 02 2012

Those who order and forget about it part of pizza delivery business

MOORHEAD – He’s not making a list or checking it twice. But when it comes to customers who call for pizza in the wee hours of the morning and subsequently flake out, Nick Enderson has a pretty good idea of who’s been naughty or nice.

“It’s bound to happen,” said the owner of Moorhead’s Pizza Nico. “You can tell there’s a chance when they order.”

He said the restaurant, which is open for pickup and delivery until 3 a.m. daily, keeps “a few mental notes” on which customers have less-than-impeccable track records when it comes to collecting – and paying for – the goods.

For Pizza Nico and other local eateries that cater to the cravings of freshly discharged bar-goers and snacking insomniacs, it’s a nightly pitfall: Some of the liveliest business hours can also be the least reliable.

Sean Hogan, assistant manager at Deek’s Pizza in Fargo, said a customer doesn’t collect an order “at least once a night.”

It happens most often between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., he said, when enthusiasm for pizza is running high, but wakefulness and good judgment are sometimes in short supply.

“Especially with pizza, they’re expecting it in 30 minutes,” he said. If it doesn’t arrive promptly, “we might lose them.”

Hogan said the warning signs of a transaction about to go wrong are often there when the customers calls in the order.

“You can definitely tell if they’re intoxicated,” he said.

But Justin Smith, assistant manager at Pizza Patrol in Moorhead, said that’s not necessarily a disqualifier.

“You can tell,” he said, “but we try not to discriminate in that matter.”

Instead, the restaurant, a late-night mainstay in the area, calls ahead to check up on those customers before dispatching a driver. If they’re not picking up the phone when the driver leaves, Smith said, odds are they won’t do so when the pizza arrives, either.

“We try to catch it beforehand,” he said.

Deek’s calls ahead, too – particularly with one customer who has a checkered past of not holding up his end of the bargain.

And when Pizza Nico senses trouble, it tries to get a credit card number sooner rather than later.

There’s no official list of problematic customers, but Smith and other late-night managers said they know who they are.

“We’re well aware of who does it more frequently than not,” Smith said. “There are a few where it does happen more often.”

But if yours is one of the names he has in mind, don’t despair: Even repeated order-and-forget offenses won’t get you blacklisted.

“Not for that reason,” Smith said. “There are other reasons,” like a driver getting robbed in the area or other serious crimes.

Besides, Enderson said, the people who place ill-conceived late-night orders are often, on balance, loyal customers.

Or, in some cases, employees.

“The first person that did it was one of our workers,” he said. Another time, it was “one of our best customers,” who came in the next day trying to pay for it.

The impact on the bottom line is small, he said. And when a pizza is returned undelivered, he’s there to pick up the slack.

“I’ll eat any pizza that we make,” he said. “It basically is my lunch the next day.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502